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Mena economic growth not true reflection of social progress

economic growth

Rising incomes bring a host of new challenges

April 14, 2014 2:12 by

A new global index has proven that economic growth does not automatically lead to improved social conditions. The Social Progress Index 2014 was published by the Social Progress Imperative and released last week at the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship. Eight Mena countries featured in this year’s rankings.

The index ranks 132 countries based on their social and environmental performance. While higher GDP per capita brings many benefits, rising incomes do not guarantee improvement on ‘Ecosystem Sustainability’, ‘Health and Wellness’ and ‘Opportunity’, reveals the report. This is mainly because further economic growth brings new social and environmental challenges.

For Middle Eastern countries, the UAE was ranked number 37, followed closely by Kuwait at 40, Saudi Arabia at 65, Jordan at 75, Lebanon at 83, Egypt at 84, Iraq at 118 and Yemen at 125.

The top country in the Social Progress Index 2014 was New Zealand, which scored particularly well on political rights, access to modern communications and school enrolment. New Zealand’s GDP per capita is $25,875. The country with the world’s highest per capita GDP was Norway ($47,546), which came fifth.

According to the report, the Social Progress Imperative is a US-based non-profit organisation that was designed to complement GDP and other economic indicators to provide a more holistic understanding of countries’ overall performance.

Project leader Professor Michael E. Porter of Harvard Business School says: “Until now, the assumption has been that there is a direct relationship between economic growth and wellbeing. However, the Social Progress Index finds that all economic growth is not equal. While higher GDP per capita is correlated with social progress, the connection is far from automatic. For similar levels of GDP, we find that some countries achieve much higher levels of social progress than others.”


The Social Progress Index defines social progress as “the capacity of a society to meet the basic human needs of its citizens, establish the building blocks that allow citizens and communities to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives, and create the conditions for all individuals to reach their full potential.”

Kuwait was ranked third from the top in terms of GDP among the 132 countries. Saudi Arabia ranks first among the 132 countries in lowest suicide rate (deaths per 100,000) and Jordan ranks first in lowest homicide rate.


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